Watch an episode of Madmen

This post might be my most contentious.

Seems that, for me, Madmen didn’t live up to the hype.

I made it through an episode but that’s possibly as far as it will go. After the fish pedicure, this might be the second challenge that I don’t repeat.

I was surprised to find this. After catching the morning after debates in the office for the past year and watching the eager exchange of DVDs, I was waiting to be blown away and instantly hooked –

I could, after it was pointed out to me, see the skill in perfectly capturing another era but…

I’ve been trying to work out what didn’t do it for me.

Possibly, it was the fact that I didn’t warm to the characters which meant that I didn’t really invest in – or care about – what was going on. Plus, I didn’t find a lot in the style of the show that was designed to take my discomfort away. This could, of course, have been the point…

Probably, I am a lazy and inexperienced viewer, and the refusal to make sense (to me) or feed my desire for action/comedy/someone covering a song badly/edge-of-the-seat suspense left me feeling unsatisfied. Or I just saw an episode that was lacking in these points.

Maybe my expectation of high speed madcap style adventures was so far from the reality that I couldn’t reconcile the two?

Or, maybe I’ll come to it 10 years after everyone else, as I did with 24 and Lost, and completely understand why it created so much buzz….

Guess I’ll have to wait and see 😉

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Have a facial

I got a facial thrown in with my holiday package thing, which was really handy considering number 32 and that it has always seemed a waste of money and a little over indulgent to pay someone to rub things into my face.

Turns out that a little indulgence is pretty nice sometimes.

Check out how super shiny my post facial skin looks:

And it only took about 10 different products to get it that way.

There’s not a lot to write about facials and certainly no deep thoughts. I’d underestimated the relaxation factor and wrongly anticipated a sense of intrusion, which is unfortunate because it means I’d probably like to have one again.

This is possibly not a terrible thing. There’s something to be said for treating yourself every now and then. Plus, the effects seem to have lasted far longer than the 30 minutes it took to have the treatments to sink in.

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Meditate. For more than 5 minutes.

I have taken myself to a spa for a few days before starting my new job.

There is, already, a theme emerging. It is around the fact that our bodies hold all the answers, if we are able to tune in. 

I am terrible at this. All my awareness is above shoulder level and I am accustomed to tuning my body out. 

Meditation, as I discovered yesterday, is as much about listening to your body as it is about calming your mind. It is about focusing on the present and using your physical self to ground you there. This is another thing that I suck at. 

It turns out that 30 minutes in a dimmed room under the control of a monotone voice can, at least, start nudging me in the right direction; and, even though I kept having to yank my mind back to the starting point – here, now, not tomorrow or what we’re having for dinner – I’m certainly becoming more conscious of the importance of this grounding. 

It’s how to maintain the sentiment in the ‘real world’ that will be the real challenge! 

P.s. In the absence of a photo, here’s the (calming) view from my room.

In the second half of the meditation, we were asked to imagine ourselves as a mountain. This didn’t really work for me (possibly the height thing), but I did have a strong image of the sea and water.  For me, grounding is about knowing that you’ll be okay in the middle of change. That you can stay afloat and sail happily along, whatever comes along. Guess that was my learning….

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Visit a (not strictly) literary landmark

This is the crowd flowing over London Bridge.

The Waste Land is one of my all time favourite poems.

The meaning is as much in the sounds as in the picking to pieces of the words. It is clever and powerful and beautiful and haunting and difficult and oh so many other things.

I was trying to think of a London literary landmark for number 72 and, as I have already gone and stared at the copy of Jane Eyre in the British Library which might have been a strong contender for personal pivotal texts, I wanted to find something connected to Eliot.

His house is quite near me so I’ll swing by there at some point; but this is an attempt to see a bit of London through his eyes. He covers a fair distance for one lazy Sunday, so I’ve just focused on the City bits:

Unreal City,
Under the brown fog of a winter dawn,
A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,
I had not thought death had undone so many.
Sighs, short and infrequent, were exhaled,
And each man fixed his eyes before his feet.
Flowed up the hill and down King William Street,
To where Saint Mary Woolnoth kept the hours
With a dead sound on the final stroke of nine.

1. The Burial of the Dead, 60-8

It is funny to be in the City on a still Sunday. Strange to walk along streets that I have only seen through the eyes of a commuter and imagine how it used to be. I hadn’t thought about how powerful the geographic connections are before, nor looked at the Thames in quite the same way –

Sweet Thames, run softly till I end my song,
Sweet Thames, run softly, for I speak not loud or long.
But at my back in a cold blast I hear
The rattle of the bones, and chuckle spread from ear to ear.

3. The Fire Sermon, 183-7

One of the things that I am finding about being back in London is how many stories and histories a City holds. How it feels to live in a place that is steeped in references and has been seen through a million different eyes –

“This music crept by me upon the waters”
And along the Strand, up Queen Victoria Street.
O City City, I can sometimes hear
Beside a public bar in Lower Thames Street,
The pleasant whining of a mandoline
And a clatter and a chatter from within
Where fishmen lounge at noon: where the walls
Of Magnus Martyr hold
Inexplicable splendour of Ionian white and gold.

3. The Fire Sermon, 257-65

How much there is to see –

This is St Dunstan’s. It wasn’t in The Waste Land but it was round the corner from where we were wandering and it blew me away. A garden in the middle of a church in the middle of the city.

As much as walking The Waste Land helped me discover Eliot’s London, it also helped me discover mine.

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Climb up Monument

Anyone who read my Barcelona entry may remember that I seem to have developed a random fear of heights. I thought it would stop me from climbing Monument but it turns out that, provided I have a hand to hold (grip, clench) on the way down and that I keep my eyes on the horizon, I am kind of okay.

This is the view from the top.

It was worth the shaky legs on the way down.

Monument is yet another one of those places that seems to have escaped me for the last 30 years. I’m not quite sure how, given its height and the huge gold thing on the top, but I might have gone sooner if I’d realised how breathtaking the view was. Or why it was built.

It turns out that Monument is a monument to the victims of the fire of London, and it’s the same height as the distance it is from where the fire of London hit. I’d never thought to wonder what the significance of the Monument was before. I won’t forget it now; and, I won’t forget how London looks under a cornflower blue winter sky and a veil of mist.

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Drink a liquid nitrogen cocktail

There’s only one thing that you can do after eating your first steak. Drink your first smoking nitrogen cocktail.

This is how it was presented:

Unfortunately, it was not quite as great as it looked. And I’m not sure it the liquid nitrogen round the edge properly counts…

Luckily, we’d ordered a few and the ‘Purl of Wisdom’ did not disappoint. Neither did the one that came with chocolate flavoured snow. Yum.

Purl is just down the road from L’Entrecôte. It is one of the coolest bars that I have been to for a while. Pianos, bookcases, leather chairs, a slightly scary doorman, a very lovely barman, dim lighting, quirky ornaments, cream cushioned booths, and free sandwiches whilst you paid through the nose for the cocktails –

“Please accept these ‘sandwiches’ as a palate cleanser prior to inebriation”. Yes please.

Prices aside – and they weren’t actually that bad for central London – I thoroughly enjoyed the Purl experience and yep, you guessed it…

I’ll be back there again 🙂

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Eat a steak

Last night I had my first steak.

There is a theme emerging this week.

I was surprised by how many people volunteered to join me on this challenge 😉 And how popular eating steak is. So popular, in fact, that we went to a restaurant with only one menu option (steak) and a Tuesday night queue.

It was worth the wait; and, there is something to be said for simplified menu options. Particularly for a nervous first timer.

This picture doesn’t do justice to how good the food at Relais de Venise L’Entrecôte was, nor quite how much steak you got on one plate. Okay, I don’t really have anything to compare it to and it is difficult to translate taste into words – slightly chewy, not as rich as I had expected, a flavour that seemed to grow – but it seemed to go down well and I am more then open to trying it again.

More then open to trying it again.

The thing that I am enjoying most about this whole not-very-well-thought-through project is how good it feels to introduce things that I know I’ll come back to. To really focus on an experience and then find that the options for the future have consequently opened out.

We were talking after dinner about fears and first times. Things like jumping out of a plane or the moment before the rollercoaster drops. These are the big things – but each little first time has the same rush of exhilaration, the same sense of expansion. Okay, so we’re only talking about an extra menu option in this case, but the principle – make your world bigger every day – just blows me away.

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